Today is the day! The day we go to see the puffins on Handa Island. It’s an early start (for us) and we get to Tarbet just before 10am. Peter went to check and we can get the next boat over – excitement is mounting.
The boat holds about 15 people and it was more or less full – mostly German and French I think. It took just 10 minutes or so to get over to the island and there, waiting on the beach were a couple of volunteer rangers for the Scottish Wildlife Trust who manage the island.
There was a short talk about the island, what to look out for and to keep to the paths etc. It was suggested that we head up owards the northern cliff face which is some 100m above sea level. It was quite a climb!
On the way up we saw several Great Skuas (or Bonxies).
The one and a half mile climb was steep and extremely tiring. What happened next for me personally was pretty awful. One glance at that sheer cliff face and I started hyperventilating. I had to sit with my back to it while Peter walked about and took photos. Everyone else was happily sitting on top of the cliff with, seemingly, not a care in the world. Just writing this brings the panic back so I won’t dwell on words and show some of the pictures that Peter took.
I couldn’t wait to get out of view of the cliffs and somehow stumbled on, hanging onto Peter for dear life, and feeling sick. The problem was that the path was so close to the edge and it was too boggy to go further inland. Another half a mile of this and we got to the Great Stack.
And here they were at last – the Puffins that we had come to see. I sat down and found that my fear gradually began to subside. From my seated position I could see the Puffins clearly but only the top part of the cliff face that they were on. We must have sat there for close on an hour and I couldn’t stop taking photos of these charming birds. They have so much character in their faces and although we hadn’t been able to bring the Sigma lens with us because it’s so heavy, my camera did me proud and I have been able to crop the photos to show the Puffins pretty close up. These photos are an amalgam of both mine and Peter’s:
It was difficult to leave these delightful creatures but we knew that we still had two miles to go to get back to the beach where the last boat picked up at 5pm. I must just add some photos of the magnificent wild flowers that grew in abundance on the cliffs:
I fondly thought that I had experienced the worst of the walk but, no, more was to come on the way down. Again the path was close to the cliffs and I just plodded on looking to my left the whole way and clutching Peter’s hand. The path got more tricky to make things worse and we found ourselves negotiating rocks on the way. We passed a flat rock with Shags, Cormorants and Guillemots all lined up:
Mercifully, some of the walking was on boardwalks and it was with some relief that eventually we found ourselves at more or less ground level. Unfortunately, we still had another mile to go and time was getting on.
Then I managed to lose my balance on a particularly treacherous bit of path and I fell heavily against the side of the path, luckily keeping my precious camera from hitting the ground. I had twisted my ankle, however, and the rest of the journey was a nightmare. I was painfully aware that the last boat would be leaving in thirty minutes and the path looked as though it would never end. I eventually stumbled down to the beach with Peter at one minute to five! The boat had arrived and people were getting into it – the people who had passed us ages ago. There was one place left and two of us! Behind us came some Germans and French so the boatman resigned himself to returning. In fact, quite a few more people turned up and he ended up having to make two extra journeys but at least we had got to the beach in time.
Back at the campsite, we were both totally exhausted by the day’s adventure. It was wonderful to see the Puffins but we had no idea that it would take so much out of us – must be getting old! 🙂 This was the peaceful scene on the beach at Sango Sands that evening but what a day to remember!
Full of admiration for doing what must have been a nightmare for you but so worth it – what totally stunning photos of the rocks, clouds, fabulous flowers (a photographers dream) AND sun, not to mention lovely puffins! What are we all going to do when the saga from the north ends? You have enough ‘paintings’ to last a lifetime. What a trip.
Thanks Margaret. Well, a lifetime’s ambition has been fulfilled – to see puffins. I wasn’t really prepared for the extreme reaction I had to the cliffs otherwise I might have thought again. Probably the long haul to get there didn’t help. BUT… the puffins made it worthwhile. Peter was brilliant throughout – goes without saying. See you soon now. X
Judy Beer said:
Just loved the puffins, great weather too. Will miss the blogs when they end
I’ll miss writing them Judy but in some ways will be nice not to have the pressure! See you soon. V
The difficulties make the end result even more special. A remarkable day with stupendous photographs. The Puffins are amazing birds. The photographs with the grass contrasting with the sea are my favourites along with all the flying puffins. Enjoy a rest a the opportunity to review all your fantastic photographs at your leisure, with a drink in your hand.
Glad you liked the puffins Sean – we loved the flying ones too, especially the one that looks like a rocket! We’re at the hotel now and don’t know what to do with all the space. Hotel has wifi but only in the public rooms. We can get it on our 3 dongle however so hope to skype you all later. Will text.
What an eventful day, in more ways that one! It was probably just as well you didn’t know what it would be like before you went. I absolutely adore those Puffins.
What happens if you miss the boat by the way. Surely they don’t want anyone staying on the island overnight?
Hope the ankle is not too sore. Pictures look amazing! Stay away from cliff tops for the next couple of weeks I think… xx
Finally caught up 🙂 loving the sheep pictures 🙂 I can just see you two buying a run down cottage over there sometime soon x you are clearly having loads of fun (and cakes!) X
Check out the sheep for the 18th June! 🙂